Three months after the devastating fire at Grenfell tower in North Kensington killed at least 80 people on June 14, a public enquiry into the disaster has opened.
On Thursday September 14, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, chairman of the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire promised those affected by the tragedy that the probe will "provide answers" and "solace."
A minute's silence was held in the packed Grand Connaught Rooms, Holborn, central London before the hearing opened.
Survivors of the blaze and relatives and friends of those who perished in the fire were among those present at the hearing.
Sir Martin, a former Court of Appeal judge, said: "The inquiry can and will provide answers to the pressing questions of how a disaster of this kind could occur in 21st century London.
"I'm well aware that the past few months have turned the world of those who live in North Kensington upside down and that former residents of the tower and local people feel a great sense of anger and betrayal.
"That is entirely natural and understandable, but if the inquiry is to get to the truth of what happened, it must seek out all the evidence and examine it calmly and rationally. "
He rejected calls for survivors to be included on his team of assessors saying it would "undermine my impartiality."
He said the inquiry's terms of reference had been cast in broad terms to allow him "get to the truth" of what happened with the help of those who have relevant evidence to give.
Key points about the enquiry
The Grenfell Tower inquiry will be divided into two phases with the first stage examining in detail:
The immediate causes of the fire
- What was the cause of the fire, how did it progress, and what contributed to it?
Sir Martin indicated an "Urgent need" to identify the flaws in the building's design to prevent a similar high-rise blaze in future.
- The refurbishment of Grenfell Tower which is suspected of exacerbating the blaze.
- It has been alleged that combustible cladding was wrapped around the 24-storey block to cut costs during the £8.6 million refit.
- Enquiry will investigate what "motivated" decisions about the tower's design.
- Subsequent modifications prior to the most recent refurbishment - What assessments were made and who was responsible?
- The fire and safety measures within the building at the time of the fire - What fire safety measures were in place and were they compliant with building regulations?
- Inspections - Were inspections compliant with relevant standards?
- Investigation to establish the legal relationship between the different persons and organisations who were responsible for fire safety at Grenfell Tower.
- What concerns, warnings and other statements were expressed about the fire safety of Grenfell Tower by its residents or any other person before, at the time of or after the recent renovations, and what was done in response?
- What fire advice was given to residents from 2012 to June 14 2017 and was it reviewed regularly?
- Did failure to implement any recommendations relevant to fire risk cause or contribute to the manner and speed of the spread of the fire at Grenfell Tower and the extent of the damage and casualties?
- The process of gathering evidence has already begun.
- Potential witnesses still to be interviewed and many thousands of documents to be reviewed.
- Sir Martin described it as an "enormous" task.
- Sir Martin plans to take at evidence at the hearing before the end of the year.
The response and aftermath to the fire
- What plans and strategies did the fire and rescue service have for dealing with a major fire in a high-rise residential building, and what actions were taken on the night of the blaze, including any "stay-put" policy?
- Was the response of all agencies involved, including the council, adequate, and if not in what respects was it inadequate.
Outlining the timetable for the inquiry, Sir Martin said: "The process of gathering evidence has already begun in earnest but there is much more to do.
"It has become clear that there are many potential witnesses still to be interviewed and many thousands of documents to be reviewed.
"The scale of the task is enormous."
Concluding his opening statement, which lasted just more than 45 minutes, he said he would begin taking evidence at the hearing before the end of this year, depending on how long it takes to get evidence from first-hand witnesses, a process that will "require care and sensitivity".
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